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The Excess Burden of Taxation and Why it (Approximately) Quadruples When the Tax Rate Doubles

The 'excess burden' of taxation represents an efficiency loss which must be compared with any perceived gains arising either from income redistribution or the non-transfer expenditure carried out by the government. An important property is that, under certain assumptions, it increases disproportionately with the tax rate. This result provides the basis of a general presumption in favour of a broad-based and low tax rate system: any exemptions which reduce the tax base inevitably raise the tax rate required to obtain anunchanged amount of total tax revenue. The aims of this paper are to provide a nontechnical explanation of the concepts of welfare change and excess burden used in the public finance literature, and to demonstrate the result that an approximation to thisburden depends on the square of the tax rate.

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Paper provided by New Zealand Treasury in its series Treasury Working Paper Series with number 03/29.

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Length: 26
Date of creation: Dec 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:03/29
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  1. James R. Hines, Jr., 1998. "Three Sides of Harberger Triangles," NBER Working Papers 6852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521336017 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," NBER Working Papers 8196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hines, James Jr., 2002. "Taxation and economic efficiency," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1347-1421 Elsevier.
  5. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  6. Diamond, P. A. & McFadden, D. L., 1974. "Some uses of the expenditure function in public finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 3-21, February.
  7. King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
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